Changing management agent, protecting boundary walls, basic facilities in rented homes
You are entitled to cut overhanging branches at the legal boundary. Likewise with ivy, or you could detach it from your side and push it back. Photograph: iStock
Q I would be obliged if you could set out for me the necessary steps required to follow in order to change the management agent in an apartment complex. There are 28 apartments in all and most owners are in favour of doing so.
A Judging from the question, I would gather that you haven’t changed your agent before, so perhaps your current agent was appointed by the developer.
You didn’t say whether or not you have a board of “owner directors” already in place. If you have, then changing agent is relatively straightforward. If you haven’t, then you have a number of things to do before you can get on with the job.
Assuming you already have your own board of directors, and the members are intent on changing agent, you should ask your board to:
Decide at a board meeting to seek proposals from other agents
Choose three potential agents to begin with
Follow up on their references.
This bit is really critical. If you don’t have your own board of directors, ie, if the developer hasn’t handed over control of the management company to the owners yet, you should ask him to co-opt new directors chosen by the members or else ask the company secretary to convene an AGM or an EGM, with a view to having the developer and his nominees step down and new directors elected from amongst the owners. Then you go through the process outlined above.
Before appointing the new agent, the board must be satisfied that the agency has both the experience and systems capability to manage your management company’s affairs. Do a Companies Office search on them (cro.ie). Download their latest set of accounts. You don’t want to give them your cheque book to manage if they can’t manage their own. And remember, the best are not always the cheapest.
It is now a statutory requirement under the Property Services (Regulation) Act 2011 to enter into a service agreement with your agent, who must be licensed and have all the necessary resources at their disposal to do a professional job. Go through the service agreement with them word for word and make sure you know what you’re agreeing to. We would suggest that you only enter into a one-year agreement initially.
Finally, give your outgoing agent at least a month’s notice in writing.
Joe Wyse is a member of the Irish Property & Facilities Management Association
Q I am 72 and live alone. My long back garden is bounded by walls with four owners on the left side. One property on the left was sold in 2000 and the new owners took liberties with my boundary wall unknown to me during a time while I had let my own house.
At the time I acted without legal or other advice and simply asked that the wall be restored to its previous state. I had taken a photo of the wall from my side and it really was an eyesore on what had been an integral granite stone wall. The owner responsible blamed the workmen and promised to have the matter put right. Again, he engaged workmen who buried the debris left by their work in my garden. However, I couldn’t pursue the matter at the time.
The same owners have allowed overgrowth of a very vigorous form of ivy which now completely covers the top of the wall and reaches in an extending and overhanging form up to five or six feet into the back of my garden and would be enough to fill a medium skip if removed . I pointed out the situation to the owner within the past year in a letter and a short meeting followed. There are also horizontal branches from a tree reaching into my garden. His line is that he will look after the pruning on his side and I should look after the pruning on my side. We have had no further meetings.
I intend to raise the matter again with him in the coming weeks and would like to read your advice on the kind of commitments I should or should not enter with this man. Should I engage a legal person and/or a qualified expert to act on my behalf (I have to beware of costs)?
AIn your question you do not provide much background to the relative ages of your house and your neighbour’s house. From your description, it’s difficult to say whose ownership the wall is in. It is important to establish this as if technically you own the wall you would be within your rights to objecting to the affixing of objects on top of it.
An inspection of the deeds to your property could throw some light on this, as the deeds could contain a well-defined deed map or detailed description of where the legal boundary is and in whose ownership the wall belongs, and whether it is a shared party wall or in the ownership of one party.
If it is your wall the legal boundary between the properties is along the face of the wall on your neighbour’s side. You then own the space over the wall. If jointly owned the legal boundary is likely to be along the centre of the wall.
If your neighbour is uncooperative in pruning his trees you are entitled to cut the overhanging branches at the legal boundary. You are obliged to offer to return the cuttings to the neighbour. Likewise with the ivy, or you could detach it from your side and push it back. Your local garden centre may be able to advise you on products and methods for discouraging ivy growth across the top of the wall.
As with all such boundary issues it is important to maintain communication and a conciliatory approach to your neighbour. For instance, actions such as throwing branch cuttings into a neighbours property or pushing the ivy growth well into their garden may be perceived as aggressive and will only serve to escalate the problem.
Niamh O’Reilly is a chartered geomatics surveyor and chair of the Geomatics Professional Group of the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland, scsi.ie
Q I read about new laws and standards for people renting property, stating that there needed to be certain basics such as a washing machine. I live in a small studio apartment which does not have one and up to now I have been using a local laundry. Should I ask my landlord to supply one?
A The legislation governing minimum housing standards in Ireland is the Housing (Standards for Rented Houses) Regulations 2008 and Housing (Standards for Rented Houses) (Amendment) Regulations 2009.
Certain provisions of the regulations were phased in over a four-year term which concluded on January 31st 2013. As and from February 1st 2013 all existing rental properties must now comply fully with the regulations.
In your case, the issue is Article 8 of the Housing (Standards for Rented Houses) Regulations 2008 (S.I.534/2008): Food Preparation and Storage and Laundry.
Your property, provided it is not exempted under certain criteria, should have a washing machine or access to a communal washing machine facility in the curtilage of the building and where there is no exclusive use of a garden or yard for the property a dryer must be provided.
The enforcement of the regulations rests with the local authorities. Where non-compliance is found there is grounds for a fine of up to €5,000 or imprisonment of up to six months or both. The financing of the enforcement and inspections is done by revenue generated from the Private Residential Tenancies Board tenancy registrations.
If it is unclear, following an inspection of the property as to whether or not the property is in compliance, your landlord may be required to provide the local authority with evidence that he is in compliance with the regulations.
I would strongly recommend that you familiarise yourself with the regulations and visit both citizensinformation.ie and environ.ie so that you may inform yourself of the standards. In the interest of keeping an amicable relationship with your landlord you might prefer to raise the matter with him directly.
Unfortunately for your landlord, ignorance is no shield from non-compliance with the regulations, and it would be in his or her interests to act promptly to resolve your concerns. One would argue that four years is time enough to provide you with the basic minimum standards.
Paul Huberman is a member of the Property & Facilities Management Group of the SCSI
Send your queries to firstname.lastname@example.org
or to Property Clinic, The Irish Times, 24-28 Tara Street, Dublin 2.
This column is a readers’ service. Advice given is general and individual
advice should always be sought